Sony is treading on some seriously dangerous ground here, dangerous enough to potentially break the company. Their reputation is pretty well mud among the geek set for the DRM infections, rootkit fiascos and general corporate ickyness of the past couple of years. This drove away some early adopters.
The $600 price tag drove away more making it a non-starter as an impulse buy. It was late to market, they couldn't supply the vastly lowered expectations they set weeks before Christmas, and in general failed miserably on execution. Net result, about half of the sales they were projecting six months before, possibly less than that. To add insult to injury, Nintendo blew by them and laughed.
This did not escape the notice of the software makers either. They are faced with optimistically twice the cost to write a game for the PS3 as the 360 and only a fifth the market to sell it in to. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the second generation of PS3 games will have a lot more ROI calculations done on them before they get a green light. Many won't get that green light.
This is far more than a theoretical problem though, in talking to several game developers, the death spiral for Sony has already begun. Many are telling me they are not writing Cell code any more, just farming it out, the 360 is the development target now.
The problem there is that the 360 will be utilized fully and optimized for. If there are special features of the 360, they will get used, and every tweak and hack explored as well. This will then be shoveled off to some poor third party who has to make it work on the PS3, a very different architecture with a very different set of strengths and weaknesses.
What you end up with is a fully utilized 360 and the 'same' game on the PS3 with all the weaknesses of the 360 and
all the weaknesses of the PS3. Add in very little budget to optimize the resultant PS3 code, and you get a B-list version of an A-list title. This will be readily apparent to even the most blatantly paid for game reviewer.
Can you guess the result? Slower software sales, slower hardware sales, and higher costs. Those dollars end up going somewhere, people want to play games. So they buy a 360, it has all the cool games. This drives up unit sales, lowers cost, and makes MS very happy.
Sony is on the verge of the death spiral. You can tell they are desperately spinning the rhetoric to keep hope alive, but private conversations with game devs tell me it is not flying behind closed doors. How long can Sony, or more to the point, will Sony keep up the money hose? Can they do it until the ugly duckling called PS3 turns into a swan, or will it stay ugly and die?
Meanwhile, MS is on the verge of a price cut
, is the primary development target for every console dev I talk to and is selling like hotcakes. PS3s are languishing on the shelves
and getting the cold shoulder from the devs. One company is on the virtuous cycle, the other has their toes over the edge of the death spiral. Dire times indeed for Sony.